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A JURY OF HER PEERS 1 


By SUSAN GLASPELL 

From Every Week 

W HEN Martha Hale opened the storm-door and 
got a cut of the north wind, she ran back for 
her big woolen scarf. As she hurriedly wound that 
round her head her eye made a scandalized sweep of her 
kitchen. It was no ordinary thing that called her away 
— it was probably farther from ordinary than anything 
that had ever happened in Dickson County. But what 
her eye took in was that her kitchen was in no shape for 
leaving: her bread all ready for mixing, half the flour 
sifted and half unsifted. 

She hated to see things half done ; but she had been 
at that when the team from town stopped to get Mr. Hale, 
and then the sheriff came running in to say his wife 
wished Mrs. Hale would come too — adding, with a grin, 
that he guessed she 'was getting scarey and wanted an- 
other woman along. So she had dropped everything 
right where it was. 

“ Martha ! ” now came her husband’s impatient voice. 
“ Don’t keep folks waiting out here in the cold.” 

She again opened the storm-door, and this time joined 
the three men and the one woman waiting for her in 
the big two-seated buggy. 

After she had the robes tucked around her she took 
another look at the woman who sat beside her on the 
back seat. She had met Mrs. Peters the year before at 
the county fair, and the thing she remembered about 

i Copyright. 1917, by The Crowell Publishing Company. Copyright, 
1918, by Susan Glaspell Cook 

256 


SUSAN GLASPELL 


257 


her was that she didn’t seem like a sheriff’s wife. She 
was small and thin and didn’t have a strong voice. Mrs. 
Gorman, sheriff’s wife before Gorman went out and 
Peters came in, had a voice that somehow seemed to be 
backing up the law with every word. But if Mrs. Peters 
didn’t look like a sheriff’s wife, Peters made it up in 
looking like a sheriff. He was to a dot the kind of man 
who could get himself elected sheriff — a heavy man with 
a big voice, who was particularly genial with the law- 
abiding, as if to make it plain that he knew the difference 
between criminals and non-criminals. And right there 
it came into Mrs. Hale’s mind, with a stab, that this man 
who was so pleasant and lively with all of them was 
going to the Wrights’ now as a sheriff. 

“ The country’s not very pleasant this time of year,” 
Mrs. Peters at last ventured, as if she felt they ought 
to be talking as well as the men. 

Mrs. Hale scarcely finished her reply, for they had 
gone up a little hill and could see the Wright place now, 
and seeing it did not make her feel like talking. It 
looked very lonesome this cold March morning. It had 
always been a lonesome-looking place. It was down in 
a hollow, and the poplar trees around it were lonesome- 
looking trees. The men were looking at it and talking 
about what had happened. The county attorney was 
bending to one side of the buggy, and kept looking stead- 
ily at the place as they drew up to it. 

“ I’m glad you came with me,” Mrs. Peters said 
nervously, as the two women were about to follow the 
men in through the kitchen door. 

Even after she had her foot on the door-step, her hand 
on the knob, Martha Hale had a moment of feeling she 
could not cross that threshold. And the reason it seemed 
she couldn’t cross it now was simply because she hadn’t 
crossed it before. Time and time again it had been in 
her mind, “ I ought to go over and see Minnie Foster” 
— she still thought of her as Minnie Foster, though for 
twenty years she had been Mrs. Wright. And then there 


258 A JURY OF HER PEERS 

was always something to do and Minnie Foster would go 
from her mind. But now she could come. 

The men went over to the stove. The women stood 
close together by the door. Young Henderson, the 
county attorney, turned around and said, “ Come up to 
the fire, ladies.” 

Mrs. Peters took a step forward, then stopped. “ Pm 
not — cold,” she said. 

And so the two women stood by the door, at first not 
even so much as looking around the kitchen. 

The men talked for a minute about what a good thing 
it was the sheriff had sent his deputy out that morning to 
make a fire for them, and then Sheriff Peters stepped 
back from the stove, unbuttoned his outer coat, and 
leaned his hands on the kitchen table in a way that 
seemed to mark the beginning of official business. 
“ Now, Mr. Hale,” he said in a sort of semi-official voice, 
“before we move things about, you tell Mr. Henderson 
just what it was you saw when you came here yesterday 
morning.” 

The county attorney was looking around the kitchen. 

“ By the way,” he said, “has anything been moved?” 
He turned to the sheriff. “ Are things just as you left 
them yesterday ? ” 

Peters looked from cupboard to sink; from that to 
a small worn rocker a little to one side of the kitchen 
table. 

“ It’s just the same.” 

“ Somebody should have been left here yesterday,” said 
the county attorney. 

“Oh — yesterday,” returned the sheriff, with a little 
gesture as of yesterday having been more than he could 
bear to think of. “ When I had to send Frank to Morris 
Center for that man who went crazy — let me tell you, 
I had my hands full yesterday. I knew you could get 
back from Omaha by to-day, George, and as long as I 
went over everything here myself — ” 


SUSAN GL AS PELL 


259 


“ Well, Mr. Hale,” said the county attorney, in a way 
of letting what was past and gone go, “ tell just what 
happened when you came here yesterday morning.” 

Mrs. Idale, still leaning against the door, had that 
sinking feeling of the mother whose child is about to 
speak a piece. Lewis often wandered along and got 
things mixed up in a story. She hoped he would tell 
this straight and plain, and not say unnecessary things 
that would just make things harder for Minnie Foster. 
He didn’t begin at once, and she noticed that he looked 
queer — as if standing in that kitchen and having to tell 
what he had seen there yesterday morning made him 
almost sick. 

“Yes, Mr. Hale?” the county attorney reminded. 

“ Harry and I had started to town with a load of 
potatoes,” Mrs. Llale’s husband began. 

Harry was Mrs. Hale’s oldest boy. He wasn’t with 
them now, for the very good reason that those potatoes 
never got to town yesterday and he was taking them this 
morning, so he hadn’t been home when the sheriff stopped 
to say he wanted Mr. Hale to come over to the Wright 
place and tell the county attorney his story there, where 
he could point it all out. With all Mrs. Hale’s other 
emotions came the fear now that maybe Harry wasn’t 
dressed warm enough — they hadn’t any of them realized 
how that north wind did bite. 

“We come along this road,” Hale was going on, with 
a motion of his hand to the road over which they had 
just come, “ and as we got in sight of the house I says 
to Harry, ‘ I’m goin’ to see if I can’t get John Wright 
to take a telephone.’ You see,” he explained to Hender- 
son, “ unless I can get somebody to go in with me they 
won’t come out this branch road except for a price / 
can’t pay. I’d spoke to Wright about it once before ; but 
he put me off, saying folks talked too much anyway, and 
all he asked was peace and quiet — guess you know about 
how much he talked himself. But I thought maybe if I 
went to the house and talked about it before his wife, 


26 o 


A JURY OF HER PEERS 

and said all the women- folks liked the telephones, and 
that in this lonesome stretch of road it would be a good 
thing — well, I said to Harry that that was what 1 was 
going to say — though 1 said at the same time that I 
didn’t know as what his wife wanted made much differ- 
ence to John — ” 

Now, there he was! — saying things he didn’t 
need to say. Mrs. Hale tried to catch her husband's 
eye, but fortunately the county attorney interrupted 
with : 

“ Let’s talk about that a little later, Mr. Hale. I do 
want to talk about that, but I’m anxious now to get along 
to just what happened when you got here.” 

When he began this time, it was very deliberately and 
carefully : 

“ I didn’t see or hear anything. I knocked at the door. 
And still it was all quiet inside. I knew they must be 
up — it was past eight o’clock. So I knocked again, 
louder, and I thought I heard somebody say, ‘ Come in.’ 
I wasn’t sure — I’m not sure yet. But I opened the door 
— this door,” jerking a hand toward the door by which 
the two women stood, “ and there, in that rocker ” — 
pointing to it — “ sat Mrs. Wright.” 

Every one in the kitchen looked at the rocker. It came 
into Mrs. Hale’s mind that that rocker didn’t look in the 
least like Minnie Foster — the Minnie Foster of twenty 
years before. It was a dingy red, with wooden rungs up 
the back, and the middle rung was gone, and the chair 
sagged to one side. 

“ How did she — look?” the county attorney was in- 
quiring. 

“ Well,” said Hale, “ she looked — queer.” 

“ How do you mean — queer ? ” 

As he asked it he took out a note-book and pencil. 
Mrs. Hale did not like the sight of that pencil. She kept 
her eye fixed on her husband, as if to keep him from 
saying unnecessary things that would go into that note- 
book and make trouble. 


SUSAN GLASPELL 261 

Hale did speak guardedly, as if the pencil had affected 
him too. 

“ Well, as if she didn’t know what she was going to 
do next. And kind of — done up.” 

“ How did she seem to feel about your coming? ” 

“ Why, I don’t think she minded — one way or other. 
She didn’t pay much attention. I said, ‘ Ho’ do, Mrs. 
Wright? It’s cold, ain’t it?’ And she said, ‘Is it?’ — 
and went on pleatin’ at her apron. 

“ Well, I was surprised. She didn’t ask me to come 
up to the stove, or to sit down, but just set there, not 
even lookin’ at me. And so I said : ‘ I want to see 

John.’ 

“ And then she — laughed. I guess you would call it 
a laugh. 

“ I thought of Harry and the team outside, so I said, 
a little sharp, ‘ Can I see John? ’ ‘ No,’ says she — kind 

of dull like. ‘ Ain’t he home? ’ says I. Then she looked 
at me. ‘ Yes,’ says she, ‘ he’s home.’ ‘ Then why can’t 
I see him?’ I asked her, out of patience with her now. 
‘’Cause he’s dead,’ says she, just as quiet and dull — 
and fell to pleatin’ her apron. ‘ Dead ? ’ says I, like you 
do when you can’t take in what you’ve heard. 

“ She just nodded her head, not getting a bit excited, 
but rockin’ back and forth. 

“‘Why — where is he?’ says I, not knowing what to 
say. . 

“She just pointed upstairs — like this” — pointing to 
the room above. 

“ I got up, with the idea of going up there myself. By 
this time I — didn’t know what to do. I walked from 
there to here; then I says: ‘ Why, what did he die of? ’ 

“ ‘ Pie died of a rope round his neck,’ says she ; and just 
went on pleatin’ at her apron.” 

Hale stopped speaking, and stood staring at the rocker, 
as if he were still seeing the woman who had sat there the 
morning before. Nobody spoke; it was as if every one 


262 A JURY OF HER PEERS 

were seeing the woman who had sat there the morning 
before. 

“ And what did yon do then ? ” the county attorney at 
last broke the silence. 

“ I went out and called Harry. I thought I might — 
need help. I got Harry in, and we went upstairs.” His 
voice fell almost to a whisper. “ There he was — lying 
over the — ” 

“ I think I’d rather have you go into that upstairs,” the 
county attorney interrupted, “ where you can point it all 
out. Just go on now with the rest of the story.” 

“ Well, my first thought was to get that rope off. It 
looked — ” 

He stopped, his face twitching. 

“ But Harry, he went up to him, and he said, ‘ No, he’s 
dead all right, and we’d better not touch anything.’ So 
we went downstairs. 

“ She was still sitting that same way. ‘ Has anybody 
been notified? ’ I asked. ‘ No,’ says she, unconcerned. 

“ ‘ Who did this, Mrs. Wright? ’ said Harry. He said 
it businesslike, and she stopped pleatin’ at her apron. 
‘I don’t know,’ she says. ‘You don’t knozvf ’ says 
Harry. ‘Weren’t you sleepin’ in the bed with him?’ 
‘ Yes,’ says she, ‘ but I was on the inside.’ ‘ Somebody 
slipped a rope round his neck and strangled him, and you 
didn’t wake up ? ’ says Harry. ‘ I didn’t wake up,’ she 
said after him. 

“ We may have looked as if we didn’t see how that 
could be, for after a minute she said, ‘ I sleep sound.’ 

“ Harry was going to ask her more questions, but I 
said maybe that weren’t our business ; maybe we ought 
to let her tell her story first to the coroner or the sheriff. 
So Harry went fast as he could over to High Road — 
the Rivers’ place, where there’s a telephone.” 

“ And what did she do when she knew you had gone 
for the coroner?” The attorney got his pencil in his 
hand all ready for writing. 


SUSAN GLASPELL 


263 

“ She moved from that chair to this one over here ” — 
Hale pointed to a small chair in the corner — “and just 
sat there with her hands held together and looking down. 
I got a feeling that I ought to make some conversation, 
so I said I had come in to see if John wanted to put in a 
telephone ; and at that she started to laugh, and then she 
stopped and looked at me — scared.” 

At sound of a moving pencil the man who was telling 
the story looked up. 

“ I dunno — maybe it wasn’t scared,” he hastened ; “ I 
wouldn’t like to say it was. Soon Harry got back, and 
then Dr. Lloyd came, and you, Mr. Peters, and so I guess 
that’s all I know that you don’t.” 

He said that last with relief, and moved a little, as if 
relaxing. Every one moved a little. The county attor- 
ney walked toward the stair door. 

“ I guess we’ll go upstairs first — then out to the barn 
and around there.” 

He paused and looked around the kitchen. 

“ You’re convinced there was nothing important here? ” 
he asked the sheriff. “Nothing that would — point to 
any motive ? ” 

1 he sheriff too looked all around, as if to re-convince 
himself. 

“Nothing here but kitchen things,” he /Said, with a 
little laugh for the insignificance of kitchen things. 

The county attorney was looking at the cupboard — a 
peculiar, ungainly structure, half closet and half' cup- 
board, the upper part of it being built in the wall, and the 
lower part just the old-fashioned kitchen cupboard. As 
if its queerness attracted him, he got a chair and opened 
the upper part and looked in. After a moment lie drew 
his hand away sticky. 

“ Plere’s a nice mess,” he said resentfully. 

The two women had drawn nearer, and now the 
sheriff’s wife spoke. 


264 A JURY OF HER PEERS 

“Oh — her fruit,” she said, looking to Mrs. Hale for 
sympathetic understanding. She turned back to the 
county attorney and explained : “ She worried about 

that when it turned so cold last night. She said the fire 
would go out and her jars might burst.” 

Mrs. Peters’ husband broke into a laugh. 

“Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder, 
and worrying about her preserves ! ” 

The young attorney set his lips. 

“ I guess before we’re through with her she may have 
something more serious than preserves to worry about.” 

“ Oh, well,” said Mrs. Hale’s husband, with good- 
natured superiority, “ women are used to worrying over 
trifles.” 

The two women moved a little closer together. 
Neither of them spoke. The county attorney seemed 
suddenly to remember his manners — and think of his 
future. 

“ And yet,” said he, with the gallantry of a young 
politician, “ for all their worries, what would we do with- 
out the ladies ? ” 

The women did not speak, did not unbend. He went 
to the sink and began washing his hands. He turned to 
wipe them on the roller towel — whirled it for a cleaner 
place. 

“ Dirty towels ! Not much of a housekeeper, would 
you say, ladies ? ” 

He kicked his foot against some dirty pans under the 
sink. 

“ There’s a great deal of work to be done on a farm,” 
said Mrs. Hale stiffly. 

“ To be sure. And yet” — with a little bow to her — 
“ I know there are some Dickson County farm-houses 
that do not have such roller towels.” He gave it a pull 
to expose its full length again. 

“ Those towels get dirty awful quick. Men’s hands 
aren’t always as clean as they might be.” 

“ Ah, loyal to your sex, I see,” he laughed. He 


SUSAN GLASPELL 


265 

stopped and gave her a keen look. “ But you and Mrs. 
Wright were neighbors. I suppose you were friends, 
too.” 

Martha Hale shook her head. 

“ I’ve seen little enough of her of late years. I’ve not 
been in this house — it’s more than a year.” 

“ And why was that? You didn’t like her? ” 

“ I liked her well enough,” she replied with spirit. 
“ Farmers’ wives have their hands full, Mr. Henderson. 
And then — ” She looked around the kitchen. 

“ Yes?” he encouraged. 

“ It never seemed a very cheerful place,” said she, 
more to herself than to him. 

“No,” he agreed; “I don’t think any one would call 
it cheerful. I shouldn’t say she had the home-making 
instinct.” 

“ Well, I don’t know as Wright had, either,” she mut- 
tered. 

“You mean they didn’t get on very well?” he was 
quick to ask. 

“ No ; I don’t mean anything,” she answered, with de- 
cision. As she turned a little away from him, she added : 
“ But I don’t think a place would be any the cheerfuler 
for John Wright’s bein’ in it.” 

“ I’d like to talk to you about that a little later, Mrs. 
Hale,” he said. “ I’m anxious to get the lay of things 
upstairs now.” 

He moved toward the stair door, followed by the two 
men. 

“ I suppose anything Mrs. Peters does’ll be all right?” 
the sheriff inquired. “ She was to take in some clothes 
for her, you know — and a few little things. We left 
in such a hurry yesterday.” 

The county attorney looked at the two women whom 
they were leaving alone there aimong the kitchen things. 

“Yes — Mrs. Peters,” he said, his glance resting on 
the woman who was not Mrs. Peters, the big farmer 
woman who stood behind the sheriff’s wife. “Of 


266 


A JURY OF HER PEERS 

course Mrs. Peters is one of us,” he said, in a manner 
of entrusting responsibility. “ And keep your eye out, 
Mrs. Peters, for anything that might be of use. No 
telling; you women might come upon a clue to the motive 
— and that’s the thing we need.” 

Mr. Hale rubbed his face after the fashion of a show 
man getting ready for a pleasantry. 

“ But would the women know a clue if they did come 
upon it?” he said; and, having delivered himself of this, 
he followed the others through the stair door. 

The women stood motionless and silent, listening to 
the footsteps, first upon the stairs, then in the room 
above them. 

Then, as if releasing herself from something strange, 
Mrs. Hale began to arrange the dirty pans under the 
sink, which the county attorney’s disdainful push of the 
foot had deranged. 

“ Pd hate to have -men coinin’ into my kitchen,” she 
said testily — “ snoopin’ round and criticizin’.” 

“ Of course it's no more than their duty,” said the 
sheriff’s wife, in her manner of timid acquiescence. 

“Duty’s all right,” replied Mrs. Hale bluffly; “but 
I guess that deputy sheriff that come out to make the fire 
might have got a little of this on.” She gave the roller 
towel a pull. “Wish Pd thought of that sooner! 
Seems mean to talk about her for not having things 
slicked up, when she had to come away in such a hurry.” 

She looked around the kitchen. Certainly it was not 
“ slicked up.” Her eye was held by a bucket of sugar 
on a low shelf. The cover was off the wooden bucket, 
and beside it was a paper bag — half full. 

Mrs. Hale moved toward it. 

“ She was putting this in there,” she said to herself — 
slowly. 

She thought of the flour in her kitchen at home — 
half sifted, half not sifted. She had been interrupted, 
and had left things half done. What had interrupted 


SUSAN GLASPELL 


267 

Minnie Foster? Why had that work been left half 
done? She made a move as if to finish it, — unfinished 
things always bothered her, — and then she glanced 
around and saw that Mrs. Peters was watching her — 
and she didn’t want Mrs. Peters to get that feeling she 
had got of work begun and then — for some reason — 
not finished. 

“ It’s a shame about her fruit,” she said, and walked 
toward the cupboard that the county attorney had opened, 
and got on the chair, murmuring: “ I wonder if it’s all 
gone.” 

It was a sorry enough looking sight, but “ Here’s one 
that’s all right,” she said at last. She held it toward 
the .light. “ This is cherries, too ” She looked again. 
“ I declare I believe that's the only one.” 

With a sigh, she got down from the chair, went to the 
sink, and wiped off the bottle. 

“ She’ll feel awful bad, after all her hard work in 
the hot weather. I remember the afternoon 1 put up my 
cherries last summer.” 

She set the bottle on the table, and, with another 
sigh, started to sit down in the rocker. But she did not 
sit down. Something kept her from sitting down in that 
chair. She straightened — stepped back, and, half 
turned away, stood looking at it, seeing the woman who 
had sat there “ pleatin’ at her apron.” 

The thin voice of the sheriff’s wife broke in upon her: 
“ I must be getting those things from the front room 
closet.” She opened the door into the other room, started 
in, stepped back. “You coming with me, Mrs. Hale?” 
she asked nervously. “You — -you could help me get 
them.” 

They were soon back — the stark coldness of that shut- 
up room was not a thing to linger in. 

“My!” said Mrs. Peters, dropping the things on 
the table and hurrying to the stove. 

Mrs. Hale stood examining the clothes the woman 
who was being detained in town had said she wanted. 


268 


A JURY OF HER PEERS 

“Wright was close!” she exclaimed, holding up a 
shabby black skirt that bore the marks of much making 
over. “ I think maybe that’s why she kept so much to 
herself. I s’pose she felt she couldn’t do her part ; and 
then, you don't enjoy things when you feel shabby. 
She used to wear pretty clothes and be lively — when 
she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girls, singing 
in the choir. But that — oh, that was twenty years 

ago-” 

With a carefulness in which there was something 
tender, she folded the shabby clothes and piled them at 
one corner of the table. She looked up at Mrs. Peters, 
and there was something in the other woman’s look that 
irritated her. 

“ She don’t care,” she said to herself. “ Much dif- 
ference it makes to her whether Minnie Foster had 
pretty clothes when she was a girl.” 

Then she looked again, and she wasn’t so sure ; in 
fact, she hadn’t at any time been perfectly sure about 
Mrs. Peters. She had that shrinking manner, and yet 
her eyes looked as if they could see a long way into 
things. 

“This all you was to take in?” asked Mrs. Hale. 

“No,” said the sheriff’s wife; “she said she wanted 
an apron. Funny thing to want,” she ventured in her 
nervous little way, “ for there’s not much to get you 
dirty in jail, goodness knows. But I suppose just to 
make her feel more natural. If you’re used to wearing 
an apron — . She said they were in the bottom drawer 
of this cupboard. Yes — here they are. And then her 
little shawl that always hung on the stair door.” 

She took the small gray shawl from behind the door 
leading upstairs, and stood a minute looking at it. 

Suddenly Mrs. Hale took a quick step toward the 
other woman. 

“ Mrs. Peters ! ” 

“Yes, Mrs. Hale?” 

“ Do you think she — did it ? ” 


SUSAN GLASPELL 269 

A frightened look blurred the other thing in Mrs. 
Peters’ eyes. 

“ Oh, I don’t know,” she said, in a voice that seemed 
to shrink away from the subject. 

“ Well, I don’t think she did,” affirmed Mrs. Hale 
stoutly. “ Asking for an apron, and her little shawl. 
Worryin’ about her fruit.” 

“Mr. Peters says — .” Footsteps were heard in the 
room above ; she stopped, looked up, then went on in a 
lowered voice: “Mr. Peters says — it looks bad for 
her. Mr. Henderson is awful sarcastic in a speech, and 
he’s going to make fun of her saying she didn’t — wake 
up.” 

For a moment Mrs. Hale had no answer. Then, 
“Well, I guess John Wright didn’t wake up — when 
they was slippin’ that rope under his neck,” she mut- 
tered. 

“No, it’s strange ” breathed Mrs. Peters. “They 
think it was such a — funny way to kill a man.” 

She began to laugh; at sound of the laugh, abruptly 
stopped. 

“ That’s just what Mr. Hale said,” said Mrs. Hale, 
in a resolutely natural voice. “ There was a gun in the 
house. He says that’s what he can’t understand.” 

“ Mr. Henderson said, coming out, that what was 
needed for the case was a motive. Something to show 
anger — or sudden feeling.” 

“ Well, I don’t see any signs of anger around here,” 
said Mrs. Hale. “I don’t — ” 

She stopped. It was as if her mind tripped on some- 
thing. Her eye was caught by a dish-towel in the mid- 
dle of the kitchen table. Slowly she moved toward the 
table. One half of it was wiped clean, the other half 
messy. Her eyes made a slow, almost unwilling turn 
to the bucket of sugar and the half empty bag beside it. 
Things begun — and not finished. 

After a moment she stepped back, and said, in that 
manner of releasing herself : 


270 


A JURY OF HER PEERS 

“Wonder how they’re finding things upstairs? I 
hope she had it a little more red up up there. You 
know,” — she paused, and feeling gathered, — “ it seems 
kind of sneaking: locking her up in town and coming 
out here to get her own house to turn against her ! ” 

“ But, Mrs. Hale,” said the sheriff’s wife, “ the law is 
the law.” 

“ I s’pose ’tis,” answered Mrs. Hale shortly. 

She turned to the stove, saying something about that 
fire not being much to brag of. She worked with it a 
minute, and when she straightened up she said aggres- 
sively : 

“ The law is the law — and a bad stove is a bad 
stove. How’d you like to cook on this?” — pointing 
with the poker to the broken lining. She opened the 
oven door and started to express her opinion of the oven ; 
but she was swept into her own thoughts, thinking of 
what it would mean, year after year, to have that stove 
to wrestle with. The thought of Minnie Foster trying to 
bake in that oven — and the thought of her never going 
over to see Minnie Foster — . 

She was startled by hearing Mrs. Peters say : “ A 

person gets discouraged — and loses heart.” 

The sheriff’s wife had looked from the stove to the 
sink — to the pail of water which had been carried in 
from outside. The two women stood there silent, above 
them the footsteps of the men who were looking for 
evidence against the woman who had worked in that 
kitchen. That look of seeing into things, of seeing 
through a thing to something else, was in the eyes of 
the sheriff’s wife now. When Mrs. Hale next spoke to 
her, it was gently: 

“ Better loosen up your things, Mrs. Peters. We’ll 
not feel them when we go out.” 

Mrs. Peters went to the back of the room to hang up 
the fur tippet she was wearing. A moment later she 
exclaimed, “ Why, she was piecing a quilt,” and held up 
a large sewing basket piled high with quilt pieces. 


SUSAN GLASPELL 


271 


Mrs. Hale spread some of the blocks out on the table. 

“ It’s log-cabin pattern,” she said, putting several of 
them together. ‘'Pretty, isn’t it?” 

They were so engaged with the quilt that they did not 
hear the footsteps on the stairs. Just as the stair door 
opened Mrs. Hale was saying: 

“ Do you suppose she was going to quilt it or just 
knot it? ” 

The sheriff threw up his hands. 

“ They wonder whether she was going to quilt it or 
just knot it! ” 

There was a laugh for the ways of women, a warming 
of hands over the stove, and then the county attorney 
said briskly: 

“ Well, let’s go right out to the barn and get that 
cleared up.” 

“ I don’t see as there’s anything so strange,” Mrs. 
Hale said resentfully, after the outside door had closed 
on the three men — “ our taking up our time with little 
things while we’re waiting for them to get the evidence. 
I don’t see as it’s anything to laugh about.” 

“ Of course they’ve got awful important things on 
their minds,” said the sheriff’s wife apologetically. 

They returned to an inspection of the block for the 
quilt. Mrs. Hale was looking at the fine, even sewing, 
and preoccupied with thoughts of the woman who had 
done that sewing, when she heard the sheriff’s wife say, 
in a queer tone: 

“ Why, look at this one.” 

She turned to take the block held out to her. 

“ The sewing,” said Mrs. Peters, in a troubled way. 
“All the rest of them have been so nice and even — 
but — this one. Why, it looks as if she didn’t know 
what she was about ! ” 

Their eyes met — something flashed to life, passed 
between them; then, as if with an effort, they seemed to 
pull away from each other. A moment Mrs. Hale sat 
there, her hands folded over that sewing which was so 


272 


A JURY OF HER PEERS 

unlike all the rest of the sewing. Then she had pulled 
a knot and drawn the threads. 

“ Oh, what are you doing, Mrs. Hale ? ” asked the 
sheriff’s wife, startled. 

“Just pulling out a stitch or two that’s not sewed 
very good,” said Mrs. Hale mildly. 

“ I don’t think we ought to touch things,” Mrs. Peters 
said, a little helplessly. 

“ I’ll just finish up this end,” answered Mrs. Hale, 
still in that mild, matter-of-fact fashion. 

She threaded a needle and started to replace bad sew- 
ing with good. For a little while she sewed in silence. 
Then, in that thin, timid voice, she heard : 

“ Mrs. Hale!” 

“Yes, Mrs. Peters?” 

“ What do you suppose she was so — nervous about? ” 

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Mrs. Hale, as if dismissing 
a thing not important enough to spend much time on. 
“I don’t know as she was — nervous. I sew awful 
queer sometimes when Pm just tired.” 

She cut a thread, and out of the corner of her eye 
looked up at Mrs. Peters. The small, lean face of the 
sheriff’s wife seemed to have tightened up. Her eyes 
had that look of peering into something. But next mo- 
ment she moved, and said in her thin, indecisive way : 

“ Well, I must get those clothes wrapped. They may 
be through sooner than we think. I wonder where I 
could find a piece of paper — and string.” 

“ In that cupboard, maybe,” suggested Mrs. Hale, 
after a glance around. 

One piece of the crazy sewing remained unripped. 
Mrs. Peters’ back turned, Martha Hale now scrutinized 
that piece, compared it with the dainty, accurate sewing 
of the other blocks. The difference was startling. 
Holding this block made her feel queer, as if the dis- 
tracted thoughts of the woman who had perhaps turned 


SUSAN GLASPELL 


273 

to it to try and quiet herself were communicating them- 
selves to her. 

Mrs. Peters’ voice roused her. 

“ Here’s a bird-cage,” she said. “ Did she have a 
bird, Mrs. Hale?” 

“ Why, I don’t know whether she did or not.” She 
turned to look at the cage Mrs. Peter was holding up. 
“ Pve not been here in so long.” She sighed. “ There 
was a man round last year selling canaries cheap — 
but I don’t know as she took one. Maybe she did. She 
used to sing real pretty herself.” 

Mrs. Peters looked around the kitchen. 

“ Seems kind of funny to think of a bird here.” She 
half laughed — an attempt to put up a barrier. “But 
she must have had one — or why would she have a 
cage ? I wonder what happened to it.” 

“ I suppose maybe the cat got it,” suggested Mrs. 
Hale, resuming her sewing. 

“ No ; she didn’t have a cat. She’s got that feeling 
some people have about cats — being afraid of them. 
When they brought her to our house yesterday, my cat 
got in the room, and she was real upset and asked me 
to take it out.” 

“ My sister Bessie was like that,” laughed Mrs. Hale. 

The sheriff’s wife did not reply. The silence made 
Mrs. Hale turn round. Mrs. Peters was examining the 
bird-cage. 

“ Look at this door,” she said slowly. “ It’s broke. 
One hinge has been pulled apart.” 

Mrs. Hale came nearer. 

“ Looks as if some one must have been — rough with 
it.” 

Again their eyes met — startled, questioning, appre- 
hensive. For a moment neither spoke nor stirred. 
Then Mrs. Hale, turning away, said brusquely: 

“ I f they’re going to find any evidence, I wish they’d 
be about it. I don’t like this place.” 


274 A JURY OF HER PEERS 

“ But Pm awful glad you came with me, Mrs. Hale.” 
Mrs. Peters put the bird-cage on the table and sat down. 
“ It would be lonesome for me — sitting here alone.” 

“Yes, it would, wouldn’t it?” agreed Mrs. Hale, a 
certain determined naturalness in her voice. She had 
picked up the sewing, but now it dropped in her lap, and 
she murmured in a different voice: “But I tell you 
what I do wish, Mrs. Peters. I wish I had come over 
sometimes when she was here. I wish — I had.” 

“ But of course you were awful busy, Mrs. Hale. 
Your house — and your children.” 

“ I could’ve come,” retorted Mrs. Hale shortly. “ I 
stayed away because it weren’t cheerful — and that’s 
why I ought to have come. I ” — she looked around — 
“ I’ve never liked this place. Maybe because it’s down 
in a hollow and you don’t see the road. I don’t know 
what it is, but it’s a lonesome place, and always was. 
I wish I had come over to see Minnie Foster sometimes. 
I can see now — She did not put it into words. 

“Well, you mustn’t reproach yourself,” counseled 
Mrs. Peters. “ Somehow, we just don’t see how it is 
with other folks till — something comes up.” 

“ Not having children makes less work,”- mused Mrs. 
Hale, after a silence, “ but it makes a quiet house — and 
Wright out to work all day — and no company when he 
did come in. Did you know John Wright, Mrs. 
Peters? ” 

“ Not to know him. I’ve seen him in town. They 
say he was a good man.” 

“Yes — good,” conceded John Wright’s neighbor 
grimly. “ He didn’t drink, and kept his word as well as 
most, I guess, and paid his debts. But he was a hard 
man, Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of day with 
him — .” She stopped, shivered a little. “ Like a raw 
wind that gets to the bone.” Her eye fell upon the 
cage on the table before her, and she added, almost bit- 
terly : “ I should think she would’ve wanted a bird ! ” 

Suddenly she leaned forward, looking intently at the 


SUSAN GLASPELL 


275 


cage. “Blit what do you s’pose went wrong with it?” 

“ I don’t know,” returned Mrs. Peters; “ unless it got 
sick and died.” 

But after she said it she reached over and swung the 
broken door. Both women watched it as if somehow 
held by it. 

‘‘You didn’t know — her?” Mrs. Hale asked, a 
gentler note in her voice. 

“ Not till they brought her yesterday,” said the sher- 
iff’s wife. 

“She — come to think of it, she was kind of like a 
bird herself. Real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid 
and — buttery. How — she — did — change.” 

That held her for a long time. Finally, as if struck 
with a happy thought and relieved to get back to every- 
day things, she exclaimed : 

“ Tell you what, Mrs. Peters, why don’t you take the 
quilt in with you? It might take up her mind.” 

“Why, I think that’s a real nice idea, Mrs. Hale,” 
agreed the sheriff’s wife, as if she too were glad to 
come into the atmosphere of a simple kindness. “ There 
couldn’t possibly be any objection to that, could there? 
Now, just what will I take? I wonder if her patches 
are in here — and her things.” 

They turned to the sewing basket. 

“ Here’s some red,” said Mrs. Hale, bringing out a 
roll of cloth. Underneath that was a box. “ Here, 
maybe her scissors are in here — and her things.” She 
held it up. “ What a pretty box ! I’ll warrant that was 
something she had a long time ago — when she was a 
girl.” 

She held it in her hand a moment; then, with a little 
sigh, opened it. 

Instantly her hand went to her nose. 

“ Why — ! ” 

Mrs. Peters drew nearer — then turned away. 

“There’s something wrapped up in this piece of silk,” 
faltered Mrs. Hale. 


276 A JURY OF HER PEERS 

“ This isn’t her scissors,” said Mrs. Peters, in a shrink- 
ing voice. 

Her hand not steady, Mrs. Hale raised the piece of 
silk. “ Oh, Mrs. Peters ! ” she cried. “ It’s — ” 

Mrs. Peters bent closer. 

“ It’s the bird,” she whispered. 

“But, Mrs. Peters!” cried Mrs. Hale. “Look at it! 
Its neck — look at its neck ! It’s all — other side to.” 

She held the box away from her. 

The sheriff's wife again bent closer. 

“ Somebody wrung its neck,” said she, in a voice that 
was slow and deep. 

And then again the eyes of the two women met — 
this time clung together in a look of dawning compre- 
hension, of growing horror. Mrs. Peters looked from 
the dead bird to the broken door of the cage. Again 
their eyes met. And just then there was a sound at the 
outside door. 

Airs. Hale slipped the box under the quilt pieces in 
the basket, and sank into the chair before it. Mrs. 
Peters stood holding to the table. The county attor- 
ney and the sheriff came in from outside. 

“ Well, ladies,” said the county attorney, as one turn- 
ing from serious things to little pleasantries, “ have you 
decided whether she was going to quilt it or knot it?” 

“ We think,” began the sheriff’s wife in a flurried 
voice, “ that she was going to — knot it.” 

He was too preoccupied to notice the change that came 
in her voice on that last. 

“Well, that’s very interesting, I’m sure,” he said tol- 
erantly. He caught sight of the bird-cage. “ Has the 
bird flown?” 

“ We think the cat got it,” said Mrs. Hale in a voice 
curiously even. 

He was walking up and down, as if thinking some- 
thing out. 

“Is there a cat?” he asked absently. 


SUSAN GLASPELL 


277 


Mrs. Hale shot a look up at the sheriff’s wife. 

“ Well, not now,” said Mrs. Peters. “ They’re super- 
stitious, you know ; they leave.” 

She sank into her chair. 

The county attorney did not heed her. “ No sign at 
all of any one having come in from the outside,” he 
said to Peters, in the manner of continuing an inter- 
rupted conversation. “ Their own rope. Now let’s go 
upstairs again and go over it, piece by piece. It would 
have to have been some one who knew just the — ” 

The stair door closed behind them and their voices 
were lost. 

The two women sat motionless, not looking at each 
other, but as if peering into something and at the same 
time holding back. When they spoke now it was as if 
they were afraid of what they were saying, but as if they 
could not help saying it. 

“ She liked the bird,” said Martha Hale, low and 
slowly. “ She was going to bury it in that pretty box.” 

“ When I was a girl,” said Mrs. Peters, under her 
breath, “my kitten — there was a boy took a hatchet, 
and before my eyes — before I could get there — ” She 
covered her face an instant. “If they hadn’t held me 
back I would have ” — she caught herself, looked up- 
stairs where footsteps were heard, and finished weakly 
— “ hurt him.” 

Then they sat without speaking or moving. 

“I wonder how it would seem,” Mrs. Hale at last 
began, as if feeling her way over strange ground — 
“never to have had any children around?” Her eyes 
made a slow sweep of the kitchen, as if seeing what 
that kitchen had meant through all the years. “ No, 
Wright wouldn’t like the bird,” she said after that — 
“ a thing that sang. She used to sing. Pie killed that 
too.” Her voice tightened. 

Mrs. Peters moved uneasily. 

“ Of course we don’t know who killed the bird.” 


278 A JURY OF HER PEERS 

“ I knew John Wright,” was Mrs. Hale’s answer. 

“ It was an awful thing was done in this house that 
night, Mrs. Hale,” said the sheriff’s wife. “ Killing a 
man while he slept — slipping a thing round his neck 
that choked the life out of him.” 

Mrs. Hale’s hand went out to the bird-cage. 

“ His neck. Choked the life out of him.” 

“ We don’t know who killed him,” whispered Mrs. 
Peters wildly. “ We don’t knozv.” 

Mrs. Hale had not moved. “If there had been years 
and years of — nothing, then a bird to sing to you, it 
would be awful — still — after the bird was still.” 

It was as if something within her not herself had 
spoken, and it found in Mrs. Peters something she did 
not know as herself. 

“ I know what stillness is,” she said, in a queer, 
monotonous voice. “ When we homesteaded in Dakota, 
and my first baby died — after he was two years old — 
and me with no other then — ” 

Mrs. Hale stirred. 

“ How soon do you suppose they’ll be through looking 
for the evidence?” 

“ I know what stillness is,” repeated Mrs. Peters, in 
just that same way. Then she too pulled back. “ The 
law has got to punish crime, Mrs. Hale,” she said in 
her tight little way. 

“ I wish you’d seen Minnie Foster,” was the answer, 
“ when she wore a white dress with blue ribbons, and 
stood up there in the choir and sang.” 

The picture of that girl, the fact that she had lived 
neighbor to that girl for twenty years, and had let her 
die for lack of life, was suddenly more than she could 
bear. 

“ Oh, I zvish I’d come over here once in a while ! ” 
she cried. “ That was a crime ! That was a crime ! 
Who’s going to punish that?” 

“ We mustn’t take on,” said Mrs. Peters, with a 
frightened look toward the stairs. 


SUSAN GLASPELL 


279 


“ I might ’a’ known she needed help ! I tell you, it’s 
queer, Mrs. Peters. We live close together, and we live 
far apart. We all go through the same things — it’s 
all just a different kind of the same thing! If it weren’t 

— why do you and I understand? Why do we knozv — 
what we know this minute?” 

She dashed her hand across her eyes. Then, seeing 
the jar of fruit on the table, she reached for it and 
choked out : 

“ If I was you I wouldn’t tell her her fruit was gone! 
Tell her it ain’t. Tell her it’s all right — all of it. Here 

— take this in to prove it to her! She — she may never 
know whether it was broke or not.” 

She turned away. 

Mrs. Peters reached out for the bottle of fruit as if 
she were glad to take it — as if touching a familiar 
thing, having something to do, could keep her from 
something else. She got up, looked about for some- 
thing to wrap the fruit in, took a petticoat from the 
pile of clothes she had brought from the front 
room, and nervously started winding that round the 
bottle. 

“ My! ” she began, in a high, false voice, “ it’s a good 
thing the men couldn’t hear us! Getting all stirred up 
over a little thing like a — dead canary.” She hurried 
over that. “ As if that could have anything to do with — 
with — My, wouldn’t they laugh?” 

Footsteps were heard on the stairs. 

“Maybe they would,” muttered Mrs. Hale — “maybe 
they wouldn’t.” 

“No. Peters,” said the county attorney incisively; 
“ it’s all perfectly clear, except the reason for doing it. 
But you know juries when it comes to women. If there 
was some definite thing — something to show. Some- 
thing to make a story about. A thing that would con- 
nect up with this clumsy way of doing it.” 

In a covert way Mrs. Hale looked at Mrs. Peters. 
Mrs. Peters was looking at her. Quickly they looked 


28 o 


A JURY OF HER PEERS 

away from each other. The outer door opened and Mr. 
Hale came in. 

“ I’ve got the team round now,” he said. “ Pretty cold 
out there.” 

“ I’m going to stay here awhile by myself,” the county 
attorney suddenly announced. “ You can send Frank 
out for me, can’t you ? ” he asked the sheriff. “ I want 
to go over everything. I’m not satisfied we can’t do 
better.” 

Again, for one brief moment, the two women’s eyes 
found one another. 

The sheriff came up to the table. 

“ Did you want to see what Mrs. Peters was going 
to take in ? ” 

The county attorney picked up the apron. He 
laughed. 

“ Oh, I guess they’re not very dangerous things the 
ladies have picked out.” 

Mrs. Hale’s hand was on the sewing basket in which 
the box was concealed. She felt that she ought to take 
her hand off the basket. She did not seem able to. He 
picked up one of the quilt blocks which she had piled on 
to cover the box. Her eyes felt like fire. She had a 
feeling that if he took up the basket she would snatch it 
from him. 

But he did not take it up. With another little laugh, 
he turned away, saying: 

“ No; Mrs. Peters doesn’t need supervising. For that 
matter, a sheriff’s wife is married to the law. Ever 
think of it that way, Mrs. Peters?” 

Mrs. Peters was standing beside the table. Mrs. Hale 
shot a look up at her; but she could not see her face. 
Mrs. Peters had turned away. When she spoke, her 
voice was muffled. 

“Not — just that way,” she said. 

“ Married to the law ! ” chuckled Mrs. Peters’ husband. 
He moved toward the door into the front room, and said 
to the county attorney: 


SUSAN GLASPELL 281 

“ I just want you to come in here a minute, George. 
We ought to take a look at these windows.” 

“ Oh — windows,” said the county attorney scoffingly. 

“ We’ll be right out, Mr. Hale,” said the sheriff to the 
farmer, who was still waiting by the door. 

Hale went to look after the horses. The sheriff fol- 
lowed the county attorney into the other room. Again 
— for one final moment — the two women were alone in 
that kitchen. 

Martha Hale sprang up, her hands tight together, 
looking at that other woman, with whom it rested. At 
first she could not see her eyes, for the sheriff’s wife 
had not turned back since she turned away at that sug- 
gestion of being married to the law. But now Mrs. 
Hale made her turn back. Her eyes made her turn 
back. Slowly, unwillingly, Mrs. Peters turned her head 
until her eyes met the eyes of the other woman. There 
was a moment when they held each other in a steady, 
burning look in which there was no evasion nor flinching. 
Then Martha Hale’s eyes pointed the way to the basket 
in which was hidden the thing that would make certain 
the conviction of the other woman — that woman who 
was not there and yet who had been there with them 
all through that hour. 

For a moment Mrs. Peters did not move. And then 
she did it. With a rush forward, she threw back the 
quilt pieces, got the box, tried to put it in her hand- 
bag. It was too big. Desperately she opened it, 
started to take the bird out. But there she broke — 
she could not touch the bird. She stood there helpless, 
foolish. 

There was the sound of a knob turning in the inner 
door. Martha Hale snatched the box from the sheriff’s 
wife, and got it in the pocket of her big coat just as the 
sheriff and the county attorney came back into the 
kitchen. 

“ Well, Henry,” said the county attorney facetiously, 
“ at least we found out that she was not going to quilt 


282 A JURY OF HER PEERS 

it. She was going to — what is it you call it, ladies?” 
Mrs. Hale’s hand was against the pocket of her coat. 

“ We call it — knot it, Mr. Henderson.”